Can you cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Myth vs Facts

Can you cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Myth vs Facts

Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

A popular misconception that Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) shouldn't be used to cook with needs to be debunked.

Mediterranean countries have a long-standing tradition of using EVOO for cooking. It is a central component of their culinary culture, cherished for its flavour, versatility and health benefits. 

Some examples of how EVOO can be used in a wide range of cooking applications, with perfectly suitable temperature points:

  1. Sautéing: EVOO is excellent for sautéing vegetables, meats, and seafood. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, add your ingredients, and cook until they are tender and lightly browned.

  2. Roasting: Toss vegetables or meats with EVOO before roasting in the oven. The oil adds flavour and helps achieve a crispy exterior on roasted items like potatoes or chicken.

  3. Grilling: Brush EVOO on vegetables, fish, or poultry before grilling. It adds a rich flavour and helps prevent sticking to the grill grates.

  4. Baking: EVOO can be used in certain baked goods, like Mediterranean-style cakes and bread. It can also be used to grease baking pans.

  5. Light Frying: You can shallow fry foods in EVOO for a flavourful crust. Other cooking oils such as rapeseed oil have a higher smoke point making it more suitable for deep frying on high-heat.

Smoke Point

One of the main concerns surrounding the question of whether to cook with EVOO or not, is its smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and produce visible smoke when heated.

The smoke point of EVOO typically falls within the range of 180-210°C, which is suitable for most everyday cooking methods.

One factor that determines its smoke point is its free fatty acid content. The levels of free fatty acids in EVOO can range anywhere from 0.2% up to the international standard limit of 0.8%. High quality EVOO, which is typically characterised by low levels of free fatty acids, tends to have a higher smoke point because it is more stable and less prone to breaking down when exposed to heat.

The quality of olives used, processing methods, and storage conditions, also play a significant role in determining its smoke point. High quality EVOO that has been properly processed and stored is more likely to have a higher smoke point. 

Therefore, the smoke point of EVOO can vary depending on its quality. A higher quality EVOO can provide you with a higher temperature tolerance, making it suitable for various cooking methods. 

Our 9 Ultra Premium EVOO has an extremely low acidity of 0.2%, with a balanced and mild flavour profile. Its subtle taste and aroma won't overpower the other flavours in your dish.

Oxidative Stability

What's even more important to consider than the smoke point of the oil, is its oxidative stability. This refers to the ability of an oil to withstand oxidation when exposed to factors like heat. An important consideration as the breakdown of fats due to oxidation can result in the formation of undesirable compounds.

EVOO is well known for its high content of monounsaturated fats, primarily oleic acid, and antioxidants, which contribute to its excellent oxidative stability: 

  • Monounsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats are considered stable fats, meaning they are less susceptible to oxidation compared to polyunsaturated fats, which are found in higher amounts in other oils such as corn oil.

  • Antioxidants: EVOO contains high levels of natural antioxidants, such as polyphenols and vitamin E. These antioxidants help protect against oxidative damage. 

The combination of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in EVOO not only contributes to its exceptional oxidative stability but also offers several health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Additionally, EVOO's stability makes it a preferred choice for cooking at moderate temperatures because it can withstand heat without breaking down and producing harmful compounds.

When choosing an olive oil, it's important to opt for high-quality EVOO, as lower-quality olive oils may have fewer antioxidants and may be more prone to oxidation. 

Tips for Selecting a High Quality EVOO

  1. Look for "Extra Virgin": Ensure that the label explicitly states "Extra Virgin Olive Oil". This is the highest grade of olive oil and signifies the best quality. 

  2. Check for Certification: Look for certifications such as the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). This indicates that the oil adheres to specific quality and geographical standards. 

  3. Check the Harvest Date: High quality EVOO should have a harvest date on the label. Freshness is crucial, so choose oils from the most recent harvest, ideally within the last year. 

  4. Examine the Bottle: EVOO should be stored in dark glass bottles, such as green or amber, or in an opaque container such as a metal tin. Protecting it from light exposure to avoid oxidation and spoilage. Avoid clear plastic bottles or transparent containers. 

  5. Taste and Aroma: If possible, taste the oil before buying. High quality EVOO should have a fresh, fruity aroma and a balanced, complex flavour with fruity, bitter, and peppery notes.

  6. Colour: EVOO can vary in colour from golden/yellow to greenish. The colour is influenced by factors such as olive variety and ripeness. It doesn't necessarily indicate quality, but a greenish tint can suggest a fresher oil.

  7. Acidity Level: Check for the acidity level on the label. EVOO should have an acidity level below 0.8% to meet the extra virgin classification. 

  8. Avoid "Light" or "Pure" Olive Oil: These are lower-quality and often refined oils. 

  9. Single-Origin: Single-origin EVOOs can be traced back to a specific location or estate, which provides transparency about the source of the olives. 

  10. Store Properly: Once you've purchased a high-quality EVOO, store it in a cool, dark place away from heat and light to preserve its quality.

Remember that the flavour profile of EVOO can vary widely based on variables such as olive variety and region, so choose one that aligns with your taste preferences and intended culinary use. 

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